The common sentiment is that experience is key come playoff time, and no NFL team is more postseason-tested than the New England Patriots.
You’d be surprised to learn, however, that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick apparently doesn’t believe playoff experience is nearly as important as others might claim it is.
“I always remember my rookie year when Bill came in there, and he always harped on, ‘Around this time everyone talks about experience and having guys with playoff experience,’ ” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said Wednesday. “He came in there and said, ‘I don’t give a damn about playoff experience.’ It’s all about who executes and plays their best football this time of year.
“Whether you’re a guy who’s played in 12 playoff games or whether you’re a rookie, he said he’s seen examples of both who have come out and played great and those who have come out and played terrible. He said, ‘Does it help? Maybe.’ But he said it doesn’t matter if you don’t come out and play.”
The Patriots have made the playoffs in all seven of McCourty’s NFL seasons. Many of his New England teammates have enjoyed similar success.
But some players in the Patriots’ locker room, including defensive end Chris Long and wide receiver Chris Hogan, have yet to make their postseason debuts. They’ll do so next Saturday night, when the Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans or Miami Dolphins visit Gillette Stadium for a divisional-round matchup.
“I think for those guys (without playoff experience), their biggest thing is they’ve played, they’ve played football for years now,” McCourty said. “Just zeroing in and playing your best football right now is what’s important, and I think they understand that more than anybody because this is what they’ve waited for and this is what they’ve wanted.”
Speaking of playoff experience, the Patriots are guaranteed to face a quarterback with none in their first postseason game. Matt McGloin, Connor Cook, Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill — the six QBs who could start in the divisional round — have a combined zero postseason snaps between them.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images